On Tuesday morning we decided to do a little less driving, and went to the Bugey town of Vongnes to visit Le Caveau Bugiste, the principal wine cooperative in this area. They make a wide range of wines, including some from the very rare indigenous grapes Mondeuse Blanche and Mollex. We tried a number of whites and sparkling wines, including their wines from those rare grapes. Everything was quite good, and we bought the Mondeuse Blanche, a sparkling wine, and a delightfully sweet late harvest wine made from Chardonnay. Next to the caveau is a wine museum which we visited; it has a huge collection of old implements used in grape growing, harvesting, and vinifying wine.
When we left the Caveau Bugiste it had started to drizzle, so after visiting the wine museum we headed back to Lhuis, where we had lunch at our gite. With lunch I opened a bottle of Altesse from Domaine Dupasquier, which was at least as good as I remembered from the tasting room. We’ve been very impressed with the Altesse/Roussette wines we’ve had so far, and hope to try several more.
By the time we had finished lunch it was raining fairly heavily, so we decided to do something that would keep us out of the rain. There was a brochure at the gite about a nearby grotto, so we drove to Les Grottes de La Balme. The grottoes were massive and extensive, and included underground lakes, and bats. We spent about an hour walking throughout the grottoes, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any pictures inside; just this photo of the plaque above the chapel outside the grottoes, indicating that the chapel was built in 1310.
After leaving the grottoes we headed back to Lhuis. We parked at our gite and took a short walk into town to pick up some veal at the butcher to cook for dinner, and some desserts at the bakery. Before dinner we had the rest of the Altesse wine from lunch, and with dinner I opened the Roussanne from Le Cellier du Palais. Another exceptional wine from the Savoie.
The next morning it was raining lightly, but I took my usual walk to the boulangerie to pick up croissants for breakfast and a baguette for later. It’s less than 10 minutes round trip to the bakery, and I’ve gone every morning except for Monday, their closing day. As I mentioned previously, the baker has developed quite a reputation in a short time, and everything we’ve had there has been outstanding. Some bakeries we’ve been to in France have made great breakfast items but mediocre pastries, and some have been the reverse, but everything at the one in Lhuis has been outstanding. I can tell from the days that we’ve made multiple visits that they are selling quite a lot during the day, but I wonder how long they’ll be satisfied with running a boulangerie in this little village.
After breakfast we headed off to the Savoie for what would turn out to be a long day. We first stopped at the town of St. Pierre d’Albigny, where we though that there would be an outdoor market, but there was none. There was a very good cheese shop though, Fromagerie Demoly, selling many different local cheeses plus others from elsewhere in France, and we bought a couple of Savoie cow cheeses, including the well-known Beaufort, which has an AOP.
From St. Pierre d’Albigny we drove to the nearby town of Freterive and stopped to try some wines at Domaine Grisard, which we had visited 2 years ago. Their wines were outstanding then, and were just as good this time. The Domaine makes all of the traditional wines of the region, such as wines from the Jacquere, Altesse and Mondeuse grape varieties, but also has been trying to keep some old gape varieties alive by continuing to make wines from them. These include Mondeuse Blanche, Persan, and Douce Noir, all of which we tried. Not surprisingly, we bought far too many wines.
After leaving Domaine Grisard we headed north to Saint Jean de Murrien, a larger town in the Alps. Among other things, this town is known for the Opinel knives, which are sold throughout the world . Opinel was founded in 1890, and at one time the knives were made in Saint Jean de Murrien in a building that is now the Opinel Museum. We took a tour of the museum and bought a few knives. We also took a walk around the town and found a great-looking cheese shop, where we bought some more Savoie cheeses.
We then left Saint Jean de Murrien and headed back in the direction we had started. We first stopped at Chateau de Miolans, a fortified medieval chateau high above St. Pierre d’Albingy, where we had stopped in the morning. It was closed then, but open in the afternoon, and we spent some time visiting the chateau.
After Miolans we stopped in the nearby village of Chignin to visit Domaine Andre et Michel Quenard, a very highly regarded wine producer. It was a little past closing time, but the vigneron was in the tasting room and started pouring us some wines until his wife arrived and took over. She poured us a wide range of their wines, including their three Chignin Bergeron wines, made with the Roussanne grape. We bought one of those wines, plus a couple of Chignins (made from the Jacquere grape) and a Mondeuse from the cru “Arbin.” That finished our long day, and we headed back to Lhuis to try and make a dent in our purchases and have dinner.